Dec 1 2012

Emmanuel and the 7 Deadly Sins in Christmas movies

maureen

Pride makes Clark Griswold do stupid things in Christmas Vacation. In fact, pride is a driving motivation for Clark in all the Vacation movies. His gloriously ridiculous light show, buying things for his family before he has the money and hiding his fears and problems from his family reveal the pressure he feels to measure up to the man he thinks he is supposed to be. When he finds out about his bonus Clark feels devalued by his boss and is devastated, not only that he might disappoint his family, but that in disappointing them he might lose their love and respect. Christmas Vacation is a reminder that love and worth are not determined by deliverables.

In The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington envies Santa and wants his job. Bored with his own role as king of Halloweentown, when Jack discovers Christmastown he finds it so much more appealing that he tries to turn Halloweentown into another Christmastown. Eventually Jack recognizes that he can take the imspiration and renewed energy that he found in Christmastown and bring that to the work he is meant to do. Continue reading


Aug 9 2010

Sex, Lies, and Don Draper in Mad Men

maureen

He presents a slick, appealing image but Don Draper is a man on the run. He’s escaping his past by taking on a new identity. His carefully constructed persona earns him admiration in the first seasons. At work he is known for his creativity, good looks, and integrity.

Advertising presents an idealized image of a life that can only be attained by purchasing the product being sold. Advertising creates discontent with real life. It plays on envy and pride to create a desire to mold a life that matches the image presented in the ad, and to purchase whatever products necessary to prop up that image. Mad Men’s creator Matthew Weiner chose advertising as a subject, he said, because “it’s a great way to talk about the image we have of ourselves, versus who we really are.”

Don Draper is the personification of a man who is reaching for the image. He doesn’t think he can attain it as himself, Richard Whitman, so he becomes someone else. For awhile he succeeds in selling himself as the person he wants people to believe that he is. Even after his charade is discovered by a few people he manages to dodge consequences. He’s tried to compartmentalize his life, presenting himself as a successful, creative advertising executive and charming family man while feeding his alienation with lies, sex, and alcohol. But he can’t maintain the persona 24/7. While the excessive drinking is accepted cultural behavior in 1960’s New York for Don it’s more than social. Don’s lost and hurting so he self-medicates with gluttony (alcohol) and lust.

Just as he does at the office, Don is carrying on a charade at home. He is the image of affluent, upper-middle class America in the sixties. But his relationship with his wife Betty is based on lies. He’s married her and given her a name that is not even his own. He cheats on her. He carries on the social pretenses of the lifestyle but he’s not really engaged. Don’s personal emotional space isn’t just wide, it’s a chasm. Even with Betty. Continue reading


Feb 1 2010

Lost TV Characters and the Seven Deadly Sins—Will Season 6 Change How We See Them?

maureen

(Other Sinema7 blog posts about Lost are available at http://sinema7.net/tag/lost/)

Lost starts Tuesday. Hopefully some of the questions that have built up over the last five years will be resolved. I recently came across this article from 2008: Get Lost in the Seven Deadly Sins by Amelie Rosseau, on the Lost Media fan site.

And here is a YouTube video called The Seven Deadly Sins of Lost:

I agreed with many of the assessments in these. I think each of the characters, like most of us, have more than one sin that motivates his or her choices. Here is my take on which characters seem to be driven by which sins:

Pride – Benjamin Linus &  Charles Whitmore are in a power struggle for the island. Pride is probably the besetting sin of leadership and power. When someone thinks they know what’s best for other people and is willing to lie, manipulate, and maybe even kill to further his own agenda that’s driven by pride. Jack is prideful, but not even close to being in Ben and Charles’ league. After years of feeling rejected and victimized Locke’s ego has to be stroked by feeling special and chosen. Juliet is just a bit sanctimonious about being right, and she’s pretty sure that she’s right on just about everything. It is ultimately Eko’s pride that drives his unwillingness to repent of his sins which apparently leads to death by smoke monster.

Envy – Jin’s insecurity pushes him toward envy. Charlie struggles with the same sort of thing. He’s jealous for Claire’s attention. He’s trying so hard to restore his image and wants so desperately to be a hero that he tags along with those that might be considered leaders hoping to be identified with them. Continue reading


Nov 4 2009

This Is It Michael Jackson’s Human Nature

maureen

Michael Jackson was an incredibly talented musician. With forty plus years of experience Michael really understood the concept of entertainment. This Is It is a glimpse into rehearsals for his upcoming show, mixed with clips of footage from music videos that were also being shot. He was acutely aware of every detail of music and movement in his show. He had a vision for how the whole thing should look and sound, and seemed to be involved in every aspect. He not only connected with his music and with his audience, but acted as a conduit that connected his music to his audience. It was impossible to walk away from a Michael Jackson performance without humming one of his tunes.

I’ve been playing Thriller a lot since he died. After watching This Is It, I came out humming Human Nature. “If they say, why, why? Tell ’em that is human nature Why, why does he do me that way? I like livin’ this way, I like lovin’ this way…” Just as he was gifted with music, Michael was also afflicted with the ravages of sin. Human Nature seems like his explanation for the various controversies that surrounded him: discord and violence within the Jackson family; the controversy concerning allegations of child sexual abuse; conjecture about multiple cosmetic surgeries; financial mismanagement (he earned $500 million dollars in his lifetime, yet his home Neverland Ranch was in foreclosure). Michael seemed to have struggled with human nature. Continue reading


Oct 24 2009

To Help or Not to Help: Homelessness and Sloth

maureen

Somebody’s Baby just wrecked me. The song  from Jon Foreman’s Winter EP tells the story of a homeless girl. Foreman is the frontman for the band Switchfoot but his solo project has more of an acoustic, experimental, indie feel. The use of strings in this song was compelling. It reminded me of another piece about homelessness that features strings, the movie The Soloist.

Both works reminded me that every homeless person has a different story. It is likely that somebody is worried about this person. And it is certain that this person is someone God loves dearly and wants to redeem. Continue reading


Sep 30 2009

The Themes of Hope and Despair in District 9

maureen

I finally saw District 9. An alien ship hovers, inoperable, above South Africa. After 28 years of conflict the ship’s inhabitants and their descendants have been rounded up and placed behind fences in slum-like conditions, where violence and crime are rampant. Over time the aliens became desperate, hopeless and violent.  The situation serves as an allegory for South Africa’s period of apartheid. But it also raises bigger questions. Wikus, a white South African government official, is sent into the settlement to inform the inhabitants that they are being moved. Unlike many of his co-workers he avoids hurting the aliens unnecessarily. He does not really see them as intelligent beings until he begins to stand in their shoes. In a search of a home he is exposed to an alien technology that causes him to begin to transform into an alien. Continue reading


Jan 30 2009

The themes of Greed and Blessing in Slumdog Millionaire

maureen

Warning : Spoilers. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie and are one of those people who don’t want to know what happens.

Slumdog Millionaire follows two brothers who make very different choices as they grapple with escaping from the hopelessness and poverty of Mumbai’s slum. For Salim money means hope. For Jamal it is his love for childhood friend Latika that drives him forward.

At the beginning of the movie Jamal and Salim flee an angry mob. Jamal’s concern extends to Latika who is also running. Salim fears that Latika will be a drain on them and resists helping her. Throughout the movie Jamal’s consistent love and concern for Latika contrasts with Salim’s willingness to treat her like a resource, using her when she adds value and rejecting her when she causes complications. Eventually Latika becomes a symbol of hope for Jamal. Finding her and loving her becomes his life’s cause. Continue reading


Dec 4 2008

The Themes of Greed and Grace in It’s a Wonderful Life

maureen

It’s a Wonderful Life is perhaps the quintessential Christmas movie. Every year we watch George Bailey’s search for meaning and purpose while we hiss and boo at the evil Mr. Potter. So what exactly does It’s a Wonderful Life have to say about our current mortgage scandals?

Just a minute – just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was – why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why – here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You – you said – what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be. – George Bailey

Continue reading


Nov 6 2008

The Theme of Greed in Burn After Reading and other Coen Brothers movies

maureen

Burn After Reading is more of the Coen Brothers’ ruminations on greed. Though No Country for Old Men and certainly Fargo provide humorous moments, Burn after Reading is more like Raising Arizona in its sensibility and humor. Brad Pitt is hysterical as Chad, the impulsive fitness instructor who helps his co-worker Linda who tries to cash in on a disk of classified C.I.A. information accidentally left at a gym in the D.C. area. Linda wants the money to pay for cosmetic surgery which, she believes, will lead to love.

As in No Country for Old Men and Fargo, greed induces characters to abandon their moral parameters. None of these characters are professional criminals. Each becomes the bumbling crook in order to obtain or keep something that is not theirs. In each case one of the main characters fails to value the opportunities for happiness already present in his or her life. In each case there is something at represents happiness that he or she is willing to break the law to get.   Continue reading


Oct 18 2008

The Theme of Greed in Millions

maureen

We can pay off all our debts. We can take a vacation. We can improve the lives of our families and friends. We can fill the gas tank. We can start a trust for our children. We can stay home and pursue something we love to do. We can weather an economic downturn. We can now afford to be charitable. We are certain we would be responsible and worthy stewards should a bag of money land in our laps.

Millions presents yet another story of finding a large sum of ill-gotten cash. Money literally falls from the sky into the hands of young Anthony and Damian. Britain is in the process of adopting the Euro so the fortune, which is in British Pounds, must be spent quickly before the country converts to Euros. Continue reading